CHICAGO -- Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who was an All-America wide receiver at Notre Dame before committing to baseball, has watched the recent coverage of Manti Te'o in disbelief.
Te'o, a Notre Dame linebacker and Heisman Trophy runner-up, is reportedly involved in a complex hoax in which he may have been duped into believing he had a girlfriend who died of leukemia in September.
On Friday, Samardzija said all the speculation about Te'o's possible involvement and what he knew has resulted in conflicting opinions.
"Some people want to believe him, some people don't," Samardzija said. "It's really arbitrary. I don't really have an opinion on it until enough information comes out and you can say who was right and who was wrong."
Samardzija was in Miami on Jan. 7 for Notre Dame's BCS championship game against Alabama -- a 42-14 Irish loss -- but did not attend the game. The right-hander said he recognizes that all of the speculation about Te'o is driving the media frenzy.
"You have to assume he made a bad decision and he learned from it," Samardzija said of Te'o. "You just hope it's not the other side of the coin."
On Friday night during an interview with ESPN, Te'o strongly denied being part of the hoax, insisting that he "wasn't faking it" and "wasn't part of this."
"Everybody's more shocked at the coverage it's getting, to tell you the truth," Samardzija said. "Again, it's Notre Dame and you understand that when you go to Notre Dame, you take on a different role of being under the spotlight. If things do go great, it's a great place to be and you get tons of accolades for it. You get all the front-page articles, you get [featured in] Sports Illustrated, you get [on] ESPN.
"But if something doesn't go well, you pay for that, too. You need to understand when you go to that school, you have to be a responsible grown-up and an adult and make the right decisions."
Turning down Classic a tough call for Starlin
CHICAGO -- Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro would like to play in the World Baseball Classic someday but said no to the Dominican Republic team this year because it already has Jose Reyes on the roster.
"Every year I want to be better," Castro said on Friday at the Cubs Convention. "Every year, I work hard to be better than I was the year before. That's why I'm working now; that's why I'm not going to the World Baseball Classic. I won't play for the Dominican because it's more important for me to be ready for the [Cubs]. I want to help the [Cubs]."
Moises Alou, who is involved in the selection of the Dominican roster, had asked Castro during the season about playing in the Classic.
"I don't want to be on the bench," Castro said. "Jose Reyes is there, and I have respect for him, and I'd be on the bench. It's better for me to be working and play every day in Spring Training. If I go, I'd play one day, two days a week. I don't want that. I want to work."
Castro said it was difficult to say no.
"It's one of my goals to play for my country, and it's tough for me [to say no]," Castro said. "But it's not the last one. I know I'll be there."
Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano also said no to Alou because the veteran outfielder needs more time to prepare in Spring Training for the season.
"Moises called, but I felt it was better for me to be with the Cubs," said Soriano.
Repaired left wrist no concern for Stewart
Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart said his left wrist is 100 percent healthy after surgery last July, and he's been hitting this offseason with Hall of Famer Rod Carew in California. Stewart spends two weeks at a time in California with Carew, then goes home for two weeks to be with his family. He'll make his third trip to California on Monday.
Stewart had a bone removed from his wrist and admitted it took a few sessions before he could turn it loose.
"The last time I was truly healthy was 2010, and even then, I missed the last month with an oblique injury," Stewart said. "I did well that year, and the last few years has been a lingering wrist issue and I really believe I got it taken care of."
Soriano has no plans to leave Chicago
CHICAGO -- Outfielder Alfonso Soriano has two years remaining on his contract with the Cubs, which may be his last.
"I want to stay here and finish my career here and try to win before I retire," Soriano said. "I signed here to bring a World Series winner to Chicago. It's been a long time since they won a World Series. That's my dream. I hope to stay here, and when they win, I want to be part of that team."
Soriano, who turned 37 on Jan. 7, said he'll make a decision after his contract is up as to whether he'll play again.
"If I'm healthy and feel strong, I'll continue to play," Soriano said. "If not, I'll retire at the end of my contract.
"I know I'm 37 years old, but I don't feel like it -- I feel like I'm 25, 26," said Soriano, who hit 32 home runs and totaled 108 RBIs last season.
Eleven high school seniors of the Chicago Cubs RBI program were offered college scholarships to play baseball, the team announced on Friday.
The Cubs RBI program is run through the Union League Boys & Girls Clubs in Chicago and supported through a grant from Cubs Care, which provided $100,000 to fund the entire program. The program gives nearly 300 inner-city youth the opportunity to play ball and participate in weekend tournaments.
"We're thrilled to honor this group of extraordinary men and their accomplishments as they further their academic and baseball careers," said Cubs executive vice president of community affairs Mike Lufrano.
This is the first year the Cubs Convention is being held at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, and players walked down a red carpet when they were introduced for Friday's opening ceremonies. It was also quite a change for Kerry Wood. One year ago, Wood's status with the Cubs was uncertain, and he ended up being the last player introduced, appearing moments after agreeing to a new contract for 2012. The pitcher then surprised the team by retiring on May 18.
This year, Wood was introduced with the Cubs alumni and sat with Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins, Billy Williams and Ernie Banks.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.